The Aviatrix

Idaho’s First Female Commercial Pilot

By Richard Bennett

While waiting at the baggage carousel at the Boise Airport for my luggage to be returned, a photo in a gallery on the west wall caught my eye.

I walked closer and looked harder. It was her, all right: Elaine McCalley, standing in front of a huge 1930s-era airplane engine, one of its radial pistons and its manifold clearly visible just behind her right shoulder. Her dark curly hair brushed against a broad wooden propeller, and her ever-present smile was unmistakable. She looked young, girlish, carefree, and happy to be photographed. Her proud bearing clearly conveyed a connection to the flying machine behind her. Until that moment, I hadn’t known that the mother of one of my childhood friends, who lived around the corner from me when I was a kid—a homemaker with a husband and two children, a regular mom who worked part-time keeping books for the neighborhood grocer—was also a member of the prestigious Idaho Aviation Hall of Fame.

It was so surprising, I had to take a step back and look again at the sign above the photo gallery. Why hadn’t I known this?

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